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King of the Hill: A&M QB's Record-Breaking Debut
Updated: Thursday, August 28 2014, 11:27 PM CDT
Kenny Hill broke Johnny Manziel's single-game passing record with 511 yards and No. 21 Texas A&M beat No. 9 South Carolina 52-28 on Thursday night, ending the Gamecocks' 18-game home win streak.
Hill's performance in his first career start proved there is plenty of life in the Aggies' offense without Manziel, a Heisman Trophy winner and a first-round selection in the NFL draft. Hill finished 44 of 60 with three touchdowns.
Hill was steady and confident in the pocket, leading Texas A&M (1-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) to a 31-14 halftime lead and finishing up with the most passing yards allowed in Steve Spurrier's 10 seasons with the Gamecocks (0-1, 0-1).
"I think we all had a chip on our shoulders," Texas A&M defensive lineman Julien Obioha said.
The Gamecocks played their first game since the departure of star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney -- and it showed. South Carolina gave up seven TDs on A&Ms first 11 possessions.
Tra Carson ran for three touchdowns and receiver Malcome Kennedy had 14 catches for 137 yards. The Aggies piled up 680 yards of offense, the most South Carolina's given up since Arkansas went for 650 in 2007.
Manziel held five of the Aggies' six best passing marks, topped by his 464 yards in a loss to Alabama last season. Hill moved past them all with his flawless showing on the road.
Hill's 44 completions were also a single-game school record, moving past Jerrod Johnson's mark against Oklahoma State in 2010.
Hill and the Aggies essentially put this one away in the first half, scoring on five of six possessions. Hill, who played just four games last year in mop-up duty, looked at ease against the Gamecocks and their young defense.
Hill completed passes to 12 receivers, most of them running free in a rebuilt secondary.
"That team is so much better than us, it wasn't funny," Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said.
South Carolina, coming off three straight 11-2 seasons, had hoped to kick off a run to the conference title in a Thursday night showcase game on the startup SEC Network.
Manziel, taken 22nd overall by Cleveland, was among three Texas A&M players picked in the first round last May. And the Aggies showed they could still operate without last year's standouts.
Kennedy had 10 catches for 85 yards in the first two quarters, allowing Aggie fans to rest easier about star Mike Evans moving on to Tampa Bay.
The offensive line provided plenty of time for Hill despite Jake Matthews heading to the NFL's Atlanta Falcons.
The Aggies got going on their first possession, and Carson finished a 67-yard drive with 1-yard TD.
South Carolina stayed close on two long scoring throws of 69 and 46 yards by new starting quarterback Dylan Thompson, the second to Damiere Byrd that helped the Gamecocks close to 17-14.
But Hill and the Aggies were relentless, pressing forward through South Carolina's Clowney-less defense.
Hill, the sophomore son of ex-major league pitcher Ken Hill, led TD drives of 75 and 80 yards in the final nine minutes before the half.
The 393 yards of A&M offense at the half were more than South Carolina's defense had allowed in nine of 13 games a year ago.
Thompson passed for 366 yards and four touchdowns. Mike Davis, the Gamecocks' 1,000-yard rusher, had 15 yards in the first half before re-injuring his ribs and sitting out the rest of the way.
Texas A&M 52, South Carolina 28
ABOUT THE WIN…
• The No. 21-ranked Aggies’ 52-28 win over No. 9 South Carolina gave A&M its first win in a conference opener since joining the Southeastern Conference. In fact, it was A&M’s first win in a conference opener since beating Baylor in 2007.
• The Aggies’ win snapped South Carolina’s 18-game home winning streak, which was the nation’s longest.
• It was A&M’s first-ever road conference game in season-opener, thus it was the Aggies’ first conference road win in a season lid-lifter.
• Aggie head coach Kevin Sumlin’s record in season-opener improved to 6-1. His record in games away from Kyle Field improved to 11-2. Sumlin’s record against top 25-ranked teams improved to 9-7 overall and 6-6 during his time at Texas A&M.
• The 52 points were the most points ever scored by the Aggies in a true road season-opener. The only time A&M scored more points away from Kyle Field in a season-opener was when D.X. Bible’s Aggie laid a 69-0 whipping on Sewanee in Dallas in 1928.
• It was the first season-opening road win against a “Big Five” conference opponent since beating LSU 18-13 in 1994.
ABOUT THAT OFFENSE
• Texas A&M hit the 500-yard mark in total offense at the 5:06 mark of the third quarter. It was the Aggies’ 19th 500 game in 27 games under head coach Kevin Sumlin.
• It was the 11th 600-yard plus game of Sumlin’s career at Texas A&M (since 2012). The 680 yards were the No. 4 offensive output in the Sumlin era, and the No. 11 offensive output in program history. It was the third highest road offensive output behind 693 vs. Mississippi State in 2012 and 687 vs. TCU in 1977.
• The Aggies went on to gain 680 yards on 99 plays, which were or matched program highs for a season-opener. The old total offense record in a season opener was 606 vs. New Mexico in 2009, while the Aggies also had 99 offensive plays against Stephen F. Austin in 2011.
• The Aggies punted just twice and had just one three-and-out in the game.
HILL OF A STARTING DEBUT
• Sophomore QB Kenny Hill likely had the most impressive starting debut by any player in school history, passing for 511 yards and three TDs on 44-of-60 passing. The 511 passing yards by Hill, who won the Aggies’ starting job in fall camp, broke the school record of 464 by Johnny Manziel against Alabama in 2013.
• With 60 pass attempts, Hill became the first Aggie QB to attempt more than 50 passes in a game AND emerge victorious. The previous high in a win was 50 by Ryan Tannehill against Texas Tech in 2010.
• His 40 completions match Jerrod Johnson’s school record set against Oklahoma State in 2010.
• Hill is the first A&M QB to surpass the 500-yard barrer in passing yards, and the sixth in SEC history to do it. The other SEC QBs with 500-yard passing games to their credit were Georgia’s Eric Zeier, Kentucky’s Jared Lorenzen, LSU’s Rohan Davey, Tennessee’s Peyton Manning and Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson.
• The 511 yards were the most by an A&M QB in a starting debut, breaking the old mark of 449 by Ryan Tannehill against Texas Tech in 2010.
KENNEDY STANDS TALL
• Senior WR Malcome Kennedy, the SEC’s third-leading returning receiver, shined against the Bulldogs with 14 catches for 137 yards, which were both career highs. His previous high reception game was 8 vs. Vanderbilt in 2013, while his receiving yards best was 110 vs. Missouri in 2012. Kennedy was snubbed on the preseason All-SEC teams despite reeling in 60 catches for 658 yards and seven TDs in 2013. He had actually surpassed his previous career high in the first half along with 10 catches in the first two quarters.
• First-time starters were WR Ed Pope, OG Joe Cheek, WR Josh Reynolds, QB Kenny Hill, RB Brandon Williams, LB A.J. Hilliard, CB Victor Davis, FS Armani Watts and Nickel Devonta Burns.
• Pope had his first receiving TD; Reynolds, WR Speedy Noil, WR Boone Niederhofer and WR Frank Iheanacho all logged their first career catches; Hilliard and DE Myles Garrett posted first career QB sacks.
ANOTHER “FAST START”
• The Aggies took the opening kickoff and methodically drove for a touchdown, culminating with a one-yard TD blast by junior RB Tra Carson. The Aggies used four rushes and five passes to move 67 yards on nine plays in 3:33.
• In 27 games under head coach Kevin Sumlin, the Aggies have scored on their opening offensive series of the game 19 times with 18 touchdowns. The Aggies have also scored first in 24 of 27 games under Sumlin.
• One of the opening periods of Sumlin’s practices is called “fast start.” Occuring just after warmups, “fast start” features several live-action 11-on-11 series just like a game situation. He started implementing the period when his teams at the University of Houston were getting off to slow starts.